Utah municipalities are facing more than $1 billion in wastewater treatment needs over the next 20 years, but revenues during that time are expected to total only $150 million.
And the state needs $50 million of that amount - perhaps in the form of a bond - just to meet immediate sewer needs, according to Ken Alkema, director of the Division of Environmental Health.And if that message, delivered to legislators Wednesday, wasn't bad enough news, Alkema told lawmakers the federal government has taken a hard stand on wastewater quality controls.
"There is a strong enforcement mechanism set up by Congress to ensure that communities meet these standards," said Alkema. "There is a strong mandate to protect the public health, and we have areas in Utah that won't be able to meet those requirements."
The federal government has discontinued grants to state and local governments for wastewater projects, instead offering an interest-free loan program.
But even with interest-free loans, most communities won't be able to afford sewer facilities that meet federal standards. The sewer bill for each household is estimated at $45 per month in those communities that critically need new facilities.
"In some of these small communities, the loan programs aren't going to be sufficient," Alkema said.